Reviews by Leah A. Zeldes

That Affair at Elizabeth

by Burton E. Stevenson

Another Godfrey and Lester novel, following "The Holladay Case," and "The Marathon Mystery." The newsman and the lawyer team up to look for a runaway bride, and find a body. Loads of red herrings keep you guessing; there's plenty of sensationalism, but the solution isn't obvious.

Reviewed on 2015.04.25

Evelina

by Fanny Burney

If you are a lover of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, and you haven't read "Evelina," you're in for a treat. This 18th-century English novel, an epistolary comedy of manners, has a romantic plot worthy of Austen, combined with a pointed Dickensian wit and richly humorous characterizations.

Brought up in obscurity in a country parson's household, shy, lovely young Evelina finds her introduction to the wider world and society and her first experiences in meeting young men a challenge, especially after encountering her vividly vulgar grandmother for the first time.

Reviewed on 2015.04.25

Clarimonde

by Théophile Gautier

A newly ordained priest dreams of a second life with a beautiful courtesan, sensuous dreams so vivid he cannot tell which is his waking life. Is she a demon, a succubus, a vampire? He doesn't care — he loves her. Haunting imagery and exquisite prose, yet the point of this short story seems to be that priests are too weak to withstand temptation. (Likely true, as recent news has continually demonstrated.)

Reviewed on 2015.04.25

The Shogun's Daughter

by Robert Ames Bennet

Interesting historical adventure set in Japan in the mid-19th century, just at the time when Commodore Perry's warships were pressing the combative and xenophobically insular Japanese to open their ports to world trade.

An adventurous young Nipponese nobleman takes ship for the West in defiance of ancient law forbidding citizens of Japan to leave the island, with death to any who go and return. He's befriended by a young American, a wealthy Southerner with all of the pre-Civil War arrogance of a plantation-born aristocrat. Although Japanese law also declares that any foreigners in Japan will be put to death, he pledges to return with his friend to his homeland in order to convince the Shogun that resting the might of the West will bring dire consequences.

The plot is fairly predictable, but the wealth of detail about Japanese life of the period is fascinating. For example, here's an account of a dinner:

“The meal was odder than any I had eaten even in China—soup, omelet, fishballs, and sponge cake; soup, boiled crawfish, lotus-root salad, and salted plums; thin soup, sweetmeats, pickled bamboo shoots, and stewed cuttlefish; thick soup, sliced duck, and stewed vegetables; sea slugs with soy sauce, loquats stewed with sugar, soup, more soup, and last of all plain boiled rice, without sugar—which is scarce in Japan—and without milk—which is unknown.”

Reviewed on 2015.04.25

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